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CARACAS, Monday May 16, 2011 | Update
 
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102nd Anniversary
Therapies face the challenge of tomorrow

Pharmaceutical companies have played a role in enlarging human life expectancy. Several researches published in scientific journals over the past 60 years show the efficacy of pharmacological therapies that have been discovered and implemented throughout these years, thus ensuring better quality of life and remission of quite a few diseases. New life-threatening diseases are the target now of pharmaceutical companies and medicine as a whole

JUAN VICENTE GÓMEZ |  PH.D. IN PHARMACY
Monday May 16, 2011  10:23 AM

 
At the beginning of the 20th Century, challenges to hit on a cure or beat some diseases were likely bigger than challenges today. Many diseases were unknown and we were defenseless, unable to fight them. Sure enough, one of the major contributions of science has been the discovery of antibiotics and their subsequent generations. Today, they continue fighting dangerous resistant bacteria. Furthermore, treatment of psychiatric disorders, starting with chlorpromazine, and the development of anesthesia resulting in painless surgery broke new ground in medicine.

Undoubtedly, pharmaceutical companies, no matter whatever detractors or the longstanding dilemma between the natural and the synthetic, between homeopathy and Ayurveda, have played a pivotal role in expanding human life expectancy.

Several researches published in scientific journals over the past 60 years attest to the efficacy of pharmacological therapies that have been discovered and implemented throughout these years, thus ensuring better quality of life and remission of quite a few diseases.

Looking at the future
Today, there are many questions on pharmaceutical companies. But do not forget that research institutes and universities around the world also form an integral part of the institutions working on future medicine.

Some years ago, nobody could imagine that alveoli or white blood cells were able to kill bacteria or diminish HIV replication. Today, we wonder about the medicine of tomorrow. Many proposals are undergoing. For instance: techniques to use autologous tissues, which mean the extraction of the patient's own cells. They are cleared by different means, upgraded and again used in the patient.

Stem cells can be gotten from several tissues. Stem cells from the umbilical cord are the best performing and effective ones. Nonetheless, based on scientific journals, the present use of stem cells is reserved to bone marrow transplantation. Hopefully, in the near future, we might be able to reproduce brain tissue, hepatic tissue and beta-pancreatic cells, among others, with such a promising technique.

Nanotechnology, even if it sounds like a Hollywood script, is a tool of medicine that will be used for the sake of humankind. Microchips will be inserted in our bodies in order to stimulate or inhibit the release of some neurotransmitter or hormone, or modulate the susceptibility of a receptor, stimulate its synthesis in the case of nervous disorders, such as Parkinson's disease, or endocrine conditions, among others.

As to prevention, following the news of mapping of the human genome, many problems were expected to be solved. We are in debt. It will linger long. However, preventive medicine reposes high hopes in the ability to assess a patient and determine predisposing genetic sequences, oncogenes, dysfunction of cell or nuclear receptors, and the possibility of undergoing treatment ahead of the emergence of signs and symptoms, thus arresting the development of the disease.

Medication will be one of the targets of pharmaceutical companies. Making drugs administration easier; making more economical, safer drugs that can be administered by patients themselves; to be administered less frequently, not on a daily basis, but weekly, or, why not?, once a month. That is, making them long-term effective.

There are signals already of such attempts, namely: products for osteoporosis, fertility and rheumatoid arthritis. Self-injected devices, capsules and caplets will continue being the standard pharmaceutical forms for many years to come.

Chronic diseases, such as high blood pressure and diabetes -which claim victims and deteriorate lives more than any other diseases- will continue being the titans to vanquish and tame. No matter the mine of therapies at disposal, they can be controlled. Patients are also responsible for fully compliance with their treatment and control. Nevertheless, there is the need to alter a therapy or increase dosage after one or two years due to losing efficacy, tolerability or adverse events. Prospects will be finding drugs able to simulate control physiological mechanisms, thus getting closer to the ideal therapy.

With regard to cancer, lot of questions is still to be answered. There is a wide range of cancers, and each of them behaves in a different way. This has precluded the finding of a really effective therapy able to give patients a better quality of life and able to drive the disease into remission.

All in all, science continues offering new, alternative therapies, either of a chemical-synthetic origin or by means of recombinant DNA techniques. Cofactors or mediators altered by cancer are tried to be inhibited. Unfortunately, treatments are very expensive. Government policies are required to make them available. Nanotechnology, early detection and modification of oncogenes through pharmacogenetics will be the future strategy for cancer management.

Humankind should face a real challenge, which is the availability of new therapies to everybody around the world. New alternative therapies should be available to everybody, no matter their cost, in private and public hospitals in the miscalled third world. Undoubtedly, drugs will be more effective and less traumatic. There will be even ultra-controlled release smart pills; containing not only two, but four or more drugs; hitting several therapeutic targets; providing comfort and wide coverage to patients both of today and tomorrow.
@jvfarma

Translated by Adrián Valera

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